As I recall, it was a chilly December day when I was surfing through various folders in First Class (our Board’s communication system) and I came upon the flyer for TMA ~ Teacher Mentors Abroad. Our ESL Learning Coordinator, Denise Taylor Edwards had posted the flyer and one of our Literacy Coordinators had taken part in the experience last summer. I read it and for some unknown reason decided to compile the necessary application requirements and send them off.
So here we are now 6 months later and I have recently arrived home from a week that has had the most profound impact on me, both professionally and personally and unlike most experiences which seem to beg for immediate reflection (which in my case means a blog post) it has taken me quite a few days of quiet reflection ~ away from everyone and everything ~ before beginning to string together my reflections in a coherent manner.
My plan is to dedicate my next few posts to the experience in the hopes that others may find something which resonates with them and their own experiences. For the sake of context, here are a few of the bare bones components of TMA. Teacher Mentors Abroad started 10 years ago as a joint venture between Nancy Lorraine, a native Dominican Republican (more about this incredible dynamo later) and Jose Lopez, a pastor in Hainamosa (one of the poorest villages in Santa Domingo). The premise behind the initiative is that by bringing Canadian educators to the Dominican, together we could build capacity within the ranks of the DR educators and they can take what they learn at a week long conference back to their school communities. Unlike our professional learning rich culture, the DR educators rarely are provided with the gift of professional development.
Up until this year, it was the Canadian educators who provided the components of the 4 days of workshops for school teams consisting of both teachers and administrators. This year, there were 10 DR educators who, after being involved in the program for several years, were brave and confident enough to co-teach with us (a team of 9 women~ 8 presenters and our team photographer, who is also a talented educator) The partnership was a monumental step towards building capacity among the DR educators.
The conference included a politically charged plenary, 4 days of workshops wherein the participants rotated through sessions on Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Know Your Learner and a closing ceremony ~ complete with government representation and a wonderful dance routine from DR children.
The organization has secured a deal with the publisher of the TRIBES book and each participant received a copy of the Spanish version of the book. Each session effectively wove various TRIBES activities into the components, as the main thrust within the DR is to move educators into embracing a more collaborative learning environment for their students. I guess it doesn’t matter how close to the equator you are ~ some of the educational challenges are the same. But in our case, we can’t blame it on lack of professional learning opportunities.
Along with the conference, we had the opportunity to see the extremes within Santa Domingo ~ from the Colonial City, where Christopher Columbus landed and the first church built in the Americas, to the white sands of the beach to the depths of poverty in Hainamosa. My usual travels to a Caribbean country had entailed a shuttle from the airport, off to the resort and then back to the airport. Following this experience, I will be hard pressed to repeat that pattern. Once you’ve seen so much, it is impossible to forget.
For more information about TMA ~ Please check out the following website. http://www.teachermentors.ca/home.htm